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Vietnam veteran Jacob Singer is tormented by the vivid memories of war and the heartbreaking death of his son. Demonic visions and hallucinations begin to haunt him day and night, leaving Jacob disturbed and searching for answers. Unsure if he is suffering from post-traumatic stress, dementia, or something paranormal, Jacob finds himself quickly spiraling out of control.
For more about Jacob's Ladder and the Jacob's Ladder Blu-ray release, see the Jacob's Ladder Blu-ray Review
Starring: Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Peña, Danny Aiello, John Capodice, Matt Craven, Pruitt Taylor Vince
Director: Adrian Lyne
» See full cast & crew
Jacob's Ladder Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 6, 2010
Adrian Lyne's "Jacob's Ladder" (1990) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment. There are no supplemental features on this disc. There are no optional English subtitles for the main feature either. Region-B "locked".
Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins, The Shawshank Redemption), a postal worker in New York City and Vietnam War veteran, is losing his mind. When he is asleep, he has violent nightmares. When he is awake, he feels that someone is following him. He knows that something isn't right, but there is no one he knows that he could talk to about his condition, not even his good friend and terrific chiropractic Louis (Danny Aiello, 2 Days in the Valley). He knows how to fix his back. Jacob needs someone who knows how to fix his head.
Jezzie (Elizabeth Pena, La Bamba), Jacob's wife, also feels that something isn't right. She can tell that Jacob is suffering but does not understand why. What frustrates Jezzie even more, however, is that Jacob does not want to talk to her about his condition. Instead, he prefers to talk on the phone with people she does not know, and even meet some of them late at night when she needs him to be with her.
Jacob gets worse. While celebrating with friends, he collapses and nearly dies. Instead of checking into a clinic, however, he heads to a sleazy bar on the outskirts of the city where he meets an old friend, also a veteran, who tells him that he is also starting to lose his mind. He has been seeing demons coming through the walls and men with guns trying to kill him.
Adrian Lynn's Jacob's Ladder is a terrific psychological thriller that allows one to draw multiple conclusions about the fascinating story it tells. In it, reality and fantasy are so closely intertwined that it is practically impossible to separate the two. As a result, during parts of the film one feels as frustrated and lost as its main protagonist does.
The point of origin for the chaos in Jacob's Ladder is a scene where Lynn shows the main protagonist getting stabbed by a bayonet. After this scene most everything in the film can be interpreted in a variety of different ways. The finale does offer a coherent closure to the story, but certainly not a definitive one – which is what makes Jacob's Ladder such a fascinating film to deconstruct.
Robbins is perfectly cast. His struggle to make sense of the events around him is very convincing. During a few of the more intense nightmares one could literally feel the pain that torments his character's soul. His lines are also very well written – none of them feel bloated or cliched.
Pena is just as good. Her reactions to her husband's strange behavior are natural and never pretentious. She asks questions anyone would have, and when she does not get proper answers she looks and feels as frustrated as anyone placed in a similar situation would.
In comparison to Robbins and Pena, Aiello's performance is more subdued and comforting. His character is the one that effectively brings balance throughout the entire film. There is one short segment where he goes berserk, after he rushes in the hospital and takes Jacob away from the medical staff, but even there he looks like a man of reason.
The script for Jacob's Ladder is loosely based on Ambrose Bierce's short story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge". It was written by Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost), but Lynn did a number of corrections to it before shooting of the film began.
The BZ drug mentioned at the end of the film apparently refers to a real substance called 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate, which the U.S. Army tested during the Vietnam War.
Jacob's Ladder Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Adrian Lyne's Jacob's Ladder arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment.
This is a solid high-definition transfer, arguably one of the very best from the budget catalog releases Optimum Home Entertainment have produced. Fine object detail is consistently good, clarity pleasing, even during the nightmares/dark sequences, and contrast levels consistent. The close-ups look strong - fine grain is easily noticeable, though occasionally some extremely mild noise is mixed with it. Edge-enhancement is never a serious issue of concern. More importantly, neither is macroblocking, which was one of the key issues with the R1 SDVD release of Jacob's Ladder Artisan Entertainment produced quite some time ago. Colors look soft and warm, but also natural. There are no stability issues to report in this review. Finally, I noticed a couple of tiny flecks early into the film, but I did not see any large cuts, stains, marks, or warps. All in all, this is a very good release of a wonderful film that has endured some quite problematic treatments during the years. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Jacob's Ladder Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and English LPCM 2.0. For the record, Optimum Home Entertainment have not provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
I chose to view the film with the English LPCM 2.0 track, and was quite pleased by its solid dynamic amplitude. Maurice Jarre's wonderful ambient soundtrack benefits greatly from it, and many of Jacob's nightmares are now as disturbing as they have ever been. Generally speaking, the dialog is crisp, clean and very easy to follow.
The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track offers a slightly better mid-low range dynamics, but surround activity is not impressive. The dialog is as crisp and clean as it is on the English LPCM 2.0 track and there are no balance issues with Maurice Jarre's soundtrack.
Jacob's Ladder Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Most unfortunately, there are absolutely no supplemental features to be found on this Blu-ray disc whatsoever.
Jacob's Ladder Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
British director Adrian Lyne achieved international success with his Flashdance and Fatal Attraction, but I consider Jacob's Ladder to be his best work. Even today, the film remains just as thought-provoking and engaging as it was during the early 90s. The Blu-ray disc herein reviewed, though without any supplemental features, looks and sounds solid. It is, however, Region-B "locked". VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Jacob's Ladder Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Optimum's January-March Blu-ray Slate - November 6, 2009
Optimum Home Entertainment is set to release over a dozen films on Blu-ray in the UK between January and March 2010. Titles run the gamut of genres, from Nouvelle vague to George A. Romero's latest zombie escapade to 1970s erotica. No information on disc specs, ...
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